Ex-employees suspected: "Crossing boundaries" in SOS Children’s Villages?

Serious allegations against two former employees of an SOS Children’s Village in Bavaria. Former residents accuse them of “crossing boundaries that are dangerous to children”. An abuse expert now presents his report, which is more specific.

A study dealt with attacks on children in SOS Children’s Villages in Bavaria. One result: According to the aid organization, two former employees of an SOS Children’s Village in Bavaria are said to have inflicted “suffering” on children entrusted to them. Former residents accuse the two women of having committed “child welfare-endangering border crossings” from the beginning of the 2000s until around 2015. The board of the SOS Children’s Village Association apologized to those affected, said a spokeswoman.

According to the organization, SOS Children’s Villages primarily wants to help children whose parents cannot care for them because of poverty or who experience violence in their families. The specific allegations should, for example, be about showering together or hygiene measures that violate the children’s limits of shame. This emerges from a report by the abuse expert Heiner Keupp, which the SOS Children’s Village Association wanted to publish on its website and the results of which were made known in advance. Keupp has also scientifically worked on the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic monastery in Ettal.

“Pedagogical mistakes”

“In a large number of actions by the two former employees, border violations that endanger the child’s welfare and educational errors took place,” said SOS Children’s Villages. “I deeply regret that the children entrusted to us have suffered. Child protection and the strengthening of children’s rights are at the center of what SOS Children’s Villages does. That is why I am shocked that this could happen in an institution of the SOS Children’s Village Association,” said the chairwoman of the board of the SOS-Kinderdorf eV, Sabina Schutter.

The Augsburg public prosecutor’s office has now started investigations after a criminal complaint, as a spokesman for the authority said. A spokeswoman for SOS Children’s Villages said the organization knew about the complaint and was in contact with the person concerned, who had previously turned to a contact point set up at the SOS Children’s Villages and received advice there.

“We take every allegation of pedagogical border violations or wrongdoing very seriously and as an organization we want to learn from mistakes and develop further,” emphasized the aid organization. “Unfortunately it has apparently not been possible to implement the established standards and guidelines with regard to child protection and the quality of the educational work seamlessly in the everyday lives of the families of the Children’s Village examined.”

Children’s villages want to draw conclusions

The Children’s Villages want to take action: The association wants to create a new office for child protection, which is part of the board and supports specialists in implementing binding standards. “We have to listen even better as an organization.” In addition, the internal reporting office should have a hotline for acute issues. “This is to ensure that former and current carers have the opportunity at all times to contribute, participate and, in an emergency, also to complain and to receive appropriate help.”

The Bavarian study is not the only one that deals with possible cases of abuse in SOS Children’s Villages. In 20 countries cared for children and young people are said to have been victims of violence and sexual abuse. There were 22 investigated cases in 50 facilities between the 1990s and the recent past, the spokesman for SOS Children’s Villages Worldwide, Boris Breyer, announced in May of this year. According to the Austrian sub-organization of SOS Children’s Villages, care facilities in Africa and Asia are affected.

SOS Children’s Villages is home to 65,000 children in 137 countries and supports a further 347,000 people with social programs. According to the latest annual report, income from donations and government aid amounted to 1.4 billion euros in 2019.